I love Thai food and every time I eat some, I think, why don't I eat more of this? The flavor profile of salty, sweet, sour and spicy hits a bullseye in my culinary wheelhouse. One thing that often prevents me from reaching for pad thai and fried spring rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner is that I'm trying to avoid an abundance of processed and carb laden foods - at least when I'm cooking at home as that's my reset time in between meals out.
Then I got invited to a Thai luncheon featuring the very personable and talented chef, Katie Chin. She just finished the daunting task of publishing a cookbook called Everyday Thai Cooking. A quick thumb through the book and I immediately sent my yes confirmation to attend the lunch with some fellow Los Angeles Food Bloggers.
Katie's been in the kitchen since she was a kid, learning the tricks of the trade from her award winning restauranteur mother, Leeann Chin. She started with a heavy Chinese influence, but she quickly applied Chinese techniques and flavors to Thai cooking. Spending time in Thailand closed the deal for Katie's love of the local cuisine, and lucky for us, she put pen to paper and came up with a collection of simple and fresh Thai recipes that I can still use on my reset nights when I cook at home.
My first step after receiving the book, Everyday Thai Cooking, was to head to 99 Ranch, one of Katie's recommended Thai grocery stores with locations all around LA. I could smell the salty interior of the market before I even entered, and was thrilled to see the wide selection of unique cuts of meat and whole fish at extremely reasonable prices. The fruits and vegetable offerings had me doing double takes at some of the unknown items, but with a cart full of fragrant ingredients like galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, I headed back to try out one of Katie's dishes.
I chose to start with her sour spicy shrimp soup because a) it's gotten frightfully cold out in normally warm LA and a fiery, warm soup is something I can dive into any time of day and b) the ingredient list included mostly just fresh vegetables and herbs and the broth is actually water to allow the wonderfully scented ingredients to do all the talking.
I made the recipe exactly as Katie outlined in her book, but I dropped the tomatoes as I really enjoyed the taste without them and wanted the other ingredients to keep their brightness.
Sour Spicy Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum Goong)
Serves 4 for starters
3 cups water
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
Six 1/4" thick slices galangal or substitute fresh ginger
2 lemongrass stalks cut into 2" long pieces and crushed with the back of a knife
One 15 oz can of straw mushrooms, rinsed, drained and cut in half
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 Thai green or red chili with seeds removed for less spice
1 tablespoon roasted red chili paste, nam prik pao
12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Place water, lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Add mushrooms, fish sauce and lime juice, slowly stirring for approximately 5 minutes. Add the chili and cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and drop in shrimp. Allow the shrimp to cook in the warm broth for about 5 minutes until done. Stir in roasted red chili paste.
Dish the soup into bowls and top with cilantro.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book, but no compensation for this article. The opinions are all my own.